Reward Points: Ain’t life grand?

This past Saturday evening I go to the movies. When I walk into the theatre and look up at the screen, I realise I am so late, I have missed not only the previews but what I’m guessing to be the first five minutes of the film. And why would I be so late since I did arrive at the theatre with enough time to get to my seat? There was quite the line at the box office so I elected to use one of three automated ticket machines, the one machine which seemed to have the shortest line-up. I felt I still could make it so I patiently waited my turn.

After two other parties go through the process, the final couple standing between me and my ticket step up to the console. Mr. Boyfriend starts going through the menus however he’s jabbering nonstop with Ms. Girlfriend. Much to my dismay, he periodically stops what he’s doing to turn his full attention to her so he can punctuate his dialogue with a gesticulation. I’m trying not to let this slowdown get to me as I mentally scream, "Ahhhh!!!!!!"

He arrives at the end of the process and looks to be doing his credit card. Ah great, I’m next.

No, wait. He starts again. Oh crap. I remember several months ago, the guy in front of me tried three times to get a ticket before concluding there was something the matter with his credit card. I didn’t know if it was his card or the machine but I tried it and got my ticket lickety split. So, this time, what? Am I going to have to wait through the same schmozzle? Another two or three tries before Mr. Card Holder decides repeating the same thing and expecting the same results is, well, the definition of insanity?

I survey the crowd. I look at the movie posters. I think about visiting the corner store after the show. I look back at the guy. What? He’s starting a third time!?! What the hell? Oh man, the machine’s got to be screwed up. Or his credit card is screwed up. I look around some more trying to distract myself.

Finally I see the machine print the ticket and the guy picks it up. He looks back to the screen and touches "Buy tickets for today". What? I slightly lean towards the guy since the area is noisy because of the crowd milling about. "Excuse me, is there something the matter with the machine?" I ask.

"No it’s fine," he responds. "I’m just trying to get points on my Scene card."

"What?"

He turns to me and says, "If I buy each ticket separately, I get points for each purchase. If I buy them all together, I only get points for one purchase."

I think to myself, "F**k!" I sort of step back and look up at the ceiling. Just how many friggin’ points is this clown going to get on his stupid ticket purchases? Gee-sus H K-rist, he’s not buying two tickets; he’s buying four tickets. Just my luck I have to get behind somebody who wants to get ahead in life by taking advantage of free stuff. I don’t have a watch so now I have no idea what time it is and whether or not I’m late.

Yep, when I do finally get in the theatre and realise the film has already started, I actually stop for a moment wondering if I should walk back out and get a refund. Nay, I’ll stay and try to sort things out. S**t, I hate missing the opening scene and the opening credits. They set the mood for the whole thing. Oh well, the film turns out to good anyway. (The movie I saw was The Guard. Click for my review)

After the film, I mull over that idiot – and here the word idiot is used with great affection – yes, that idiot wanting to maximize his bonus points. Just what the heck is a bonus point worth?

Club Z
Sorry, it’s pronounced Club Zed, not Zee! – Zellers is a Canadian discount retail chain which has been around since the beginning of time… okay, the beginning of my time. As well as providing cheap inexpensive merchandise to the discriminating shopper, the store started a rewards program in the mid-1980s. With every purchase, the buyer got "Club Z points" which could be redeemed for merchandise. Now I never did this but I was given to understand by my mother that you’d have to have about a zillion points to get anything of any value. I suppose that might peg a single point at the monetary equivalent of one one thousandth of a penny or something. I heard stories of people tracking all this very, very carefully planning out months or even years in advance to gather all the necessary points to buy that special cheap inexpensive item for a Christmas or birthday gift. Nothing says sincerity like handing somebody a gift which was acquired for free through a system of reward points.

Now here’s a personal story but I must start by saying that I loved my Dad a lot and well, I love him still. So I am telling you this with tongue in cheek rolling my eyes good naturedly while accepting a family member’s whims.

To put this in perspective, it’s the mid-1990s and I’m 44 while Mom and Dad are 66 and 72 respectively. – I’m pointing out the ages because this was a time in my life when I was working very hard and my parents were retired. In other words, I was going 100 km/h (60 mph) while they were going 50 km/h (30mph). – Occasionally I’d come into town and stay overnight. I’d help out with a few chores, visit and share a couple of meals.

One time, Dad asks me to drive him up to Zellers to get some batteries. He’s cut out a coupon from the newspaper which gives him a discount. Instead of $5, he can get a package of batteries for $4.50 or something. We go up to the store and find the display of the discounted batteries. He picks up one package, just one. It contains four batteries if I remember correctly. We go to the check-out and wait in line at one of the cashiers. Finally we get up and the girl takes our purchase and Dad hands over his credit card. Then she asks that stop you dead in your tracks question, "Do you have a Club Z card?"

Oh, oh. Dad discovers he has forgotten to ask Mom for the card. Without it, Dad can’t collect the points. I’m shaking my head because I know what’s coming up. Dad asks the girl to set his batteries aside so we can go home and get the Club Z card. I am patiently playing the chauffeur in this story – quality time with the folks – but there’s a part of me that’s freaking out. For crying out loud, just how many points does anybody get for a four dollar and fifty cent purchase? And what are those points worth in dollars and cents? Just this side of nothing? How much gas am I wasting because I’m doing this chauffeuring in my car, not in his car? Yeah, sure, let’s go home and get the friggin’ Club Z card cuz we need to rack up those points to cover not only the cost of my gas, but the wear and tear on my car and our collective time doing this. I must confess that I was on the verge of screaming when we were at the checkout. "F**k! Give me the god-damned batteries and I’ll buy them for you. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the stupid points!"

Nevertheless, I calmly drove my father home like a dutiful son. We got the Club Z card from Mom and went back to the store and purchased the batteries. And got points. By the way, I’m chuckling away to myself as I’m writing this because it all seems so funny now. At the time, though, I was having a bit of difficulty in retaining my composure.

Time versus Money
Over the years I have come to realise that there seems to be this relationship between time and money. If you have lots of money, time is important. If you don’t have lots of money, time ends up being less important. If you’ve got the bucks, who cares about the cost, let’s pay extra and get to the head of the line. If you don’t have the bucks, well, you’ll spend as much time as it takes in line because that’s all you can afford.

I guess I could interpret that in a couple of ways. I can look around me and conjecture on who’s got the bucks and who doesn’t have the bucks and figure out how they are going to approach the problem of time versus money. Another way would be to see myself retired with a ton and a half of time on my hands and ready, willing and able to attentively track every reward point in the book with every discount coupon torn out of the paper so as to lay my hands on as much free stuff as possible.

Scene Points
When I got home after the film, I looked up the point system for the Scene card. Apparently you get 100 points for purchasing a movie ticket BUT you are only allowed two transactions per day. So guy did four transactions but would have only gotten 200 points, that is, 100 points for each of just two out of the four. Oh great. I’m late for my movie because idiot face hadn’t bothered to completely read the rules.

I also discovered that you need a thousand points to get a free movie ticket. So that works out approximately that you have to spend $140 to get one free ticket. Okay, I guess that’s worth it.

Final Word
I hardly ever pay attention to reward programs or discount coupons. Why? I just can’t be bothered. It doesn’t seem to be worth my time looking at such little stuff. I’d rather focus on making a thousand dollars than thinking about saving five bucks. Well, that’s the argument I give myself. For me, time is really, really important. I’m not suggesting I’m rich; I’m just saying that I’m impatient and don’t want to waste my time standing in a line-up. When I go to some place like an amusement park which offers that special no line-up ticket, I’ll spend the money to get it. I love showing up and walking right in, no waiting. Years ago, my wife and I visited Paris, France and had purchased these special passes for a hundred bucks a piece. At each place we visited, there was a special line-up always empty where you could walk into any attraction without waiting. I remember going to Notre Dame Cathedral and it took us about 60 seconds to get in while the main line required you to wait an hour to get in the church. An hour! I know because I asked. That was the best hundred bucks I ever spent.

Oh yeah, I discovered that the Empress Theatre chain has started a special theatre in their complex where you can purchase reserved seating over the Internet. Fabulous. And from what I see, it doesn’t seem to cost anything extra; the cost of a ticket is the same as a regular theatre. No waiting in line; no showing up early to get a good seat. Heck, I would pay extra for such a service.

References

Wikipedia: Scotiabank
The Bank of Nova Scotia, commonly known as Scotiabank, is the third largest bank in Canada by deposits and market capitalization. The company ranks at number 92 on the Forbes Global 2000 listing.

Wikipedia: Cineplex Entertainment
Cineplex Entertainment LP (TSX: CGX), is the largest film exhibitor in Canada and owns, leases or has a joint-venture interest in 130 theatres with 1,351 screens. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, Cineplex operates theatres from British Columbia to Quebec. The company operates the Cineplex Odeon, Galaxy, Famous Players, Colossus, Coliseum, SilverCity, Cinema City, and Scotiabank Theatre brands.

SCENE: Scotiabank and Cineplex
SCENE is an entertainment rewards program brought to you by Scotiabank and Cineplex Entertainment.

Scene: How to earn points
SCENE points are awarded to members for the purchase of their own movie ticket only. A total of 100 SCENE points will be awarded per adult transaction (a maximum of two transactions per day). If you are also purchasing a ticket for a child (under the age of 14), an additional 50 points will be credited to your account per child’s ticket (a maximum of two children’s tickets per transaction, two transactions per day). SCENE members will be able to earn up to 400 points per day from the purchase of movie tickets (200 points for the member based on 2 movies per day, plus 200 points for taking two children to each of the two movies).

Wikipedia: Zellers
Zellers Inc. is Canada’s second-largest chain of mass merchandise discount stores, with locations in communities across Canada. A subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company, it currently consists of 273 locations across the country. On January 13, 2011, Zellers announced plans to sell the leaseholds of the majority (up to 220) of its locations to Target Corporation, as the Minneapolis-based chain prepares to expand into Canada in 2013. Target is not buying the Zellers chain however, and HBC currently plans to continue operating its remaining 50-60 Zellers locations following the sale.

Wikipedia: HBC Rewards
HBC Rewards is a loyalty program where customers earn points for purchases at Hudson’s Bay Company’s various chains of stores in Canada, including Zellers, The Bay, Home Outfitters, HBC Telecommunications, and hbc.com, their online store. Some third-party businesses also offer HBC Rewards Bonus points for purchasing their merchandise and/or services.

The rewards program was first introduced by Zellers in 1986 and was known as Club Z (pronounced Club Zed). Shoppers earned ‘Club Z points’.

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

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